Archive for December, 2014

Hour-by-Hour Look at Disney Park Crowd Levels – Revisited

by on December 31, 2014

Earlier this year I wrote a blog post showing heat maps with hour-by-hour park crowd levels. My intention was to illustrate how the crowd levels fluctuate during the day, and we received requests to add these charts to the TouringPlans website.

Personally, I think the charts are most useful if they are customized to specific travel dates. Here is an example for my next trip in February.

February 16-20, 2015

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Review: Animal Kingdom Lodge DVC Deluxe Studio Villa at Kidani Village

by on December 31, 2014

While Disney World offers a vast variety of different resorts to choose from for guests staying on property, the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Villas offer even more options and experiences, particularly when it comes to room sizes! During my last few trips to Disney World, I had the opportunity to enjoy stays at several different DVC Villas; but today, I’m zeroing in on Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge in this review of an Animal Kingdom Lodge DVC Deluxe Studio Villa at Kidani Village.

Kidani Village Lobby

Kidani Village Lobby

First of all, the Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s own timeshare program where members purchase and use points for their vacation experiences. It can be difficult to understand, but Disney Vacation Club (DVC) 101: What is DVC? can help fill in the gaps. If you are not a Disney Vacation Club Member, the good news is that you can still stay at a DVC Resort! You can do so by booking through Disney, just as you would any other resort; however, other guests like to rent points from a 3rd party or directly from other members. If you chose the latter, we recommend that you go through a reputable third party or from a member you know personally (as opposed to a random person on the internet).

My family and I had never stayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge before. We had dropped by the resort in years past for a dinner at Boma and to do some exploring, but that was the extent of our experience. However, for many years, we had been hearing from others that Animal Kingdom Lodge was one of the best resorts at Disney World and a big favorite; and so when we got the opportunity to stay a week in a DVC Deluxe Studio Villa at the resort’s Kidani Village, we couldn’t turn down the chance to check it out for ourselves.

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! December 2014 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on December 31, 2014

MMM positiveIt’s the last day of 2014 and forget about what a year it has been for theme park merchandise. There was The Good: Both Universal and Disney upped their game with the new Film Vault and Memento Mori stores.  The Bad: There is an actual movie using nothing but Disney Vinylmation And The Ugly: Turns out the heavily anticipated Adventureland-themed gift shop in the Magic Kingdom will instead be a Sunglass Hut. Here’s to even better (and weirder) happenings in 2015.

Also, before we go on, be sure to check out our Year End “Best” of the Disney Outlet Store article.

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you).

Our first item could be a foreshadowing of things to come. It’s rare to see Muppet related items at the Outlets. Especially based on the popular Kermit the Frog. Out in Disney California Adventure, Muppet*Vision 3D has been jettisoned for Frozen Fun, and rumors persist that the attraction could join the Studio Backlot Tour, American Idol Experience, and the Legend of Jack Sparrow in the recycling bin at Disney Hollywood Studios here in WDW. If that happens, expect the Outlets to be flooded with items featuring Beaker, Dr. Honeydew and the rest of the gang.

IMG_2548

“It’s not easy being green…or being sold at half price.” Originally $24.95, now $12.99

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Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report – December 21 to 27, 2014

by on December 30, 2014

Universal Orlando Resort Crowd levels were lower than expected last week, continuing the trend over the last few months. December 24th crowds were particularly low compared to what we have seen in years past.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report:

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Walt Disney World Newsworthy Notes 12/30/14

by on December 30, 2014

The year is almost over, and I’m back again with one more newsworthy update for 2014! There are quite a few things that guests should know about the Walt Disney World Resort for the beginning of the new year, so I’m here to share everything with you. Ready to get to it? Let’s go!

  • Back a few months ago, (October to be exact), we found out that Island Supply shop would be closing in Adventureland for a new concept. Many in the Disney community were hopeful…would we be getting a shop featuring some of the great Adventureland-themed merchandise sold at the Marketplace Co-Op? Well, I have your answer, and the answer is, “No.” The shop will reopen on January 8 as Island Supply by Sunglass Hut. That means you can purchase high-end sunglasses and other products offered by this new operating participant. In addition, another store selling similar merchandise will open on January 4 at Typhoon Lagoon: Sal’s Shades by Sunglass Hut.
  • Two of Epcot’s Innoventions exhibits will close in the beginning of January. The first is the THINK Exhibit by IBM. This exhibit in Innoventions East allowed guests to take part in three unique experiences that allowed them to engage in a conversation about how we can improve the way we live and work. This exhibit will close January 1. Also closing in Innoventions East is the Test the Limits Lab. Here guests can “test” products to make sure they are safe for consumers by shattering a TV screen, dropping a safe, and more. It will close on January 6. There is no word on whether anything will be replacing either of these two exhibits.

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Disney World Crowd Report – December 21 to 27, 2014

by on December 30, 2014

Christmas crowds at Walt Disney World are not hard to predict. Imagine long lines all day at even the most minor attractions, crowded restaurants and over-packed buses. But it is significantly more difficult to predict which park will be more crowded than the others and we did that with great success last week.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week:

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Disneyland Resort Crowd Report – December 21 to 27, 2014

by on December 30, 2014

Last week our resort level predictions matched what we saw every day, that is why we don’t see a blue line on the Overall Crowd Level Chart. Our park level predictions hit the mark most days as well with none missing by more than one index level. Both parks saw days with average wait times that hit a level ’10’ on our scale.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Disneyland Resort Crowd Report:

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Disney World Reading List: Books for Before, During, and After Your Vacation

by on December 30, 2014

Great Disney World vacations have three stages: anticipation, enjoyment, and fond (or wistful!) memories. Books are the perfect way to attune yourself with all three stages. Whether you’re getting excited for a trip, looking for deeper understanding of the parks’ themes and design, or ready to spend some time reading about Disney history, there are books to widen your world.

Here are some books to get you excited, keep you entertained, and tell you more — before, during, and after your Walt Disney World vacation.

Since the World Began

Since the World Began is a wonderful “get ready to go” book for your Disney vacation.

Anticipation: Planning and Building Excitement.

On the way to Disney World, you’re getting revved up. You’re making plans. You want to know what to see and where to go; you want to be reminded of favorite spots you’ve loved in the past.

First, get the current details on the parks well before even arrive. Grab a guidebook for the nitty-gritty planning work. Even seasoned travelers can use a reference guide for trip planning — I always have The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World on hand. I use it for quick reference on recommended touring plans, height requirements, dining options, and resort maps. Even though I visit Disney World multiple times a year, I still need to get specifics down pat.

But for something bright, colorful, and pleasing for all ages, try Since the World Began: Walt Disney World – The First 25 Years, by Jeff Kurtti. Yes, Cinderella Castle is in her forties now, making this book just a tad dated. But you can often find it used, or even at your local library, and it’s a nice introduction to Disney World that the whole family can have fun flipping through. Coffee table-sized and lavishly illustrated, it’s a perfect let’s-get-ready, excitement building type of read. (Amazon, BN.com)

In a similar vein, there are a number of Walt Disney World photo retrospectives that Disney has released over the years, many of them from the 70s and 80s. Keep your eyes open at your local thrift stores — these beauties, often hardcovers, can often be picked up cheaply and are a fun way to relive old memories and learn more about some of Disney World’s long-lost spots.

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Menu Monday: Boys in the Castle

by on December 29, 2014

Cinderella's Castle - Frozen

Cinderella Castle – Frozen

If you are a parent of all boys, the question of whether or not to attend ‘princess’ events at Walt Disney World may not have an obvious answer. I am the mother of two boys, and the only princess items in our house are a wand and a tiara I bought for my Halloween costume, plus the Frozen DVD. In our house, ‘princess’ toys would be turned into makeshift weapons. On my family’s most recent trip to Disney World, I decided that I wanted to have dinner with Cinderella. So I got up early on the first day I was eligible to make dining reservation and was lucky enough to get a time I wanted for Cinderella’s Royal Table (CRT). My next step was telling my two boys and husband that we were going to have dinner at Cinderella Castle. I was not sure what sort of response I would get; however, I was more than pleased. My boys were ecstatic! The news was greeted by cheers and animated jumping up and down. I suppose I could have predicted this enthusiasm. Who would not be excited about eating dinner in this truly iconic Disney symbol? After all, it is the symbol you see at the beginning of every Disney movie (including the future Star Wars movies). It is the piece of architecture in the Magic Kingdom that makes you stop in your tracks and realize you really are at Disney World. Everyone pauses to take a photo in front of Cinderella Castle.

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Menu Monday: ESPN Club

by on December 29, 2014

ESPN Club

©Disney

Recently my boys and I returned from another fun-filled adventure in Disney World. Being huge sports fans, one of our family’s favorite spots during every Disney World trip is ESPN Club. We love the wide selection of games to watch and foods to eat that this restaurant has to offer. ESPN Club is very unique and the perfect place to take a break and watch the big game during your vacation. If you have a sports lover in your traveling group, please read on for all of the details.

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